Ending of judge's crier role 'disaster waiting to happen'

 

A CIRCUIT Court judge has hit out at any plans to abolish the role of judge’s crier, describing the move as “a disaster waiting to happen”, which will hit court productivity.

Judge Olive Buttimer retired from the bench yesterday and used her last day in office to criticise the proposed cutback, saying it could lead to courts sitting for shorter hours.

The role of the crier is to provide assistance to a Circuit Court judge. Duties include driving the judge to and from courthouses.

It is a similar position to that of the judge’s tipstaff in the High Court and Supreme Court.

Prof Colm McCarthy’s 2009 review of government expenditure recommended the abolition of tipstaffs and criers, which cost about €2.5 million every year. There are currently between 83 and 87 such positions.

Judge Buttimer said there had been “a lot of talk” about dispensing with criers.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she said, adding that judges are extremely tired by the end of each day – particularly when first appointed – as for the first time they have to consider each side of each case.

“Judges are only going to sit much shorter hours, in which case there will be a loss of productivity, so they can drive themselves home.”

The alternative, she said, was to sit for longer hours to get through the court lists – “which are enormous” – but possibly be “dangerous when driving home at night”.

Criers also saved the court time by getting the judge’s car in and out of the courthouse grounds, she added.

“Either way, it’s a loser to appoint a judge without a crier.”

The chief executive of the Courts Service, Brendan Ryan, said last year there would be “very few support services available directly to judges if you take the ushers and criers from them”.

Judge Buttimer joined the Bar in 1977 and built up a successful practice in Dublin and the midlands before becoming a judge of the Circuit Court in 1997, presiding mainly on the southeastern circuit.

Tributes were paid to her yesterday at her last sitting of the court, in Clonmel, by representatives from the Bar, the solicitors of the area; the Garda Síochána; the Courts Service; the county registrars; and her judicial colleagues, represented by Judge Alice Doyle and Judge Tom Teehan.

Many spoke of her efficiency, her courtesy to practitioners and litigants alike and her wisdom.

Among those present to congratulate her was senior counsel Jack Fitzpatrick, under whom Judge Buttimer “devilled” when she first became a barrister.

“This is a day of triumph and a day of some sadness for the circuit, as you retire,” Mr Fitzpatrick told her.

“You will leave a gap when you leave the court today. That gap the authorities will fill, but they’ll never fill it fully.”